The art and science of apartment sales has always involved a calendar for the best and worst times of the year to buy or sell an apartment. Conventional wisdom has typically held that the holiday season, from just before Thanksgiving through the New Year, is one of the least favorable times to put a home on the market. Brokers would usually advise sellers to wait till January to get ready for the ‘Spring’ season, which in the real estate sales markets, like baseball, begins in February.
Matthew Mackay, an associate broker with Douglas Elliman in New York points out that “During the holidays, people are traveling, attending parties and gatherings with friends and families, and shopping. They’re distracted. So traditionally, it was the slowest time of year.”
William Martin, also an associate broker with Douglas Elliman, adds that “Many sellers don’t want to show during the holidays because of the season.” Their homes are decorated, they may be hosting guests (especially now that pandemic restrictions are lightening up) and they don’t want the intrusion of buyers and brokers looking at their spaces at that time. Brokers themselves often take vacation during this period as well.
However, thanks to the upheaval of the pandemic and other changes to our economy, this scenario is changing. “In this sellers’ market, with such a small number of properties available for sale, the current circumstances reflect the present inflationary environment,” says Eugene Cordano, CEO of Brown Harris Stevens New Jersey. “Lots of buyers chasing after too few properties continues to result in increasing prices, which is good for sellers in most cases.”
Martin says that perhaps the main ‘pro’ for listing during the holidays is that “strategically, there are fewer units listed for sale, so there is much less competition in the marketplace. Additionally, homes look good this time of year, and buyers can imagine themselves celebrating their holiday in the space.” With pandemic-related foreign travel bans now lifted, “There is also an increase in foreign buyers visiting New York at this time of year. Many are looking to buy units, and they’re available for viewings.”
“Buyers looking during the holidays are usually relocating to the area,” says Cordano. “They’re thinking a January 2 start date, or moving in for the winter semester and need to be placed so their children can attend the local school. This usually means they are highly motivated - and arguably more so than if the holidays were not upon us.”
Still, the season is a double-edged sword. On the other side of the equation, says Mackay, “Normally a lot of buyers pull back from the market between Thanksgiving and the New Year. December (and August) have traditionally been our two quietest months.”
Cordano adds that “Selling at this time of year imposes on the seller’s family during a time when it is most important to spend time with family and friends. With a smaller buyer pool though, the sale might not result in the best offer either.”
This year, Mackay says, “There are plenty of buyers. With COVID there are also fewer people travelling, so they’re around to look at units. In this market, a seller can list on December 23rd and sell by December 26th. It’s really a matter of motivation, not price discounts.”